Saturday, 31 March 2012

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Queens Park Rangers Previewed

Arsenal are in tremendous form at the moment, and their seven straight Premier League wins have seen them rise to third place in the table. It's the highest position they have held this season, and with only eight games remaining it's a very good place for them to be. To be honest third place was probably the height of their possibilities this season, and it would be good for them to reach that when all is done and dusted.

I'm by no means counting any chickens, as only a few weeks ago it looked like fourth place would be as good as they could manage this season. In the time Arsenal won those seven games their closet rivals managed only six points to greatly help their cause. The recent collapse of Spurs has been nothing short of hilarious for Arsenal fans.

The "Mind The Gap" shirts worn by Spurs for their game at Arsenal look like they will come back to haunt them, but they also show how quickly things can change in football. St. Totteringham's Day draws ever closer, but I won't be calling it until it is a mathematical certainty.

The illustration below shows the real gap between the clubs. I saw it first on Gunning From Sussex, but I don't know who is responsible for the original.
It's still possible that Arsenal will have a slip of their own and struggle for the rest of the season, but I don't believe it. The current team has had it's problems and disappointments, but they are displaying a mental strength I thought I might never again see in an Arsenal team. It has seen them become the first team to come from behind and win four Premier League games in a row.

Of course it would be much better if they didn't have to come from behind quite so often, but in the last two games they have taken the lead and kept it. They have also managed clean sheets in both of those games, as the defensive understanding continues to grow in the side. The bad days of a team full of central defenders seem so far away now, as the injury crisis has eventually faded.

The team news ahead of the game against QPR is quite good with no new injuries to add to the few players that are unavailable. Laurent Koscielny looks like he will be passed fit to play, but Abu Diaby will miss out as a precautionary measure. It should mean the squad is the same as the one used in the game against Villa last week.

I would be very surprised if Arsene Wenger didn't pick the same team that started against Villa, as the team played so well in that game. I know Villa offered very little against Arsenal, but that was because of the way Arsenal played as well as Villa's inability. I've seen QPR play and they are there for the taking as long as Arsenal perform to their best again.

QPR have only won twice in their last 18 Premier League games, and they are looking destined for a return to the Championship.  The arrival of Mark Hughes as their new manager in January was meant to save them from the drop, but they continued to plummet the table despite all the money he spent. His best signing was Djibril Cisse, but he will miss their next four games after receiving his second red card in 344 minutes of football for them.

QPR still have a little to threaten Arsenal with Bobby Zamora leading their attacking line, but their problems lie in their defence. They have only managed to win three of their 15 home games so far, and they have conceded 24 goals in the process. Arsenal have scored 27 goals away from home so far, and their defence has really improved on the road too.

Since Arsenal lost 2-1 away to Spurs on October 2nd they have matched the points tally of Manchester City, and they're only three points off the tally of United. It would be a good achievement if they could keep pace with the teams above them for the rest of the season. They have also matched the amount of goals City have scored in those games, and outscored United too.

Of course Arsenal's terrible start to the season was down to a lot of different factors, and hopefully they are completely behind the team now. If they can add the players that are needed to the squad there is every chance they can put in a genuine title challenge next season. Their return of 51 points from the last 23 games offers real promise for the future.

It can sometimes be tricky playing against relegation threatened teams, and Arsenal have to be careful with QPR. Their confidence is low and Arsenal cannot afford to let them build up a head of steam in the game. They showed how dangerous they can be when they came from 2-0 down to beat Liverpool a couple of weeks ago.

As long as Arsenal play on the front foot and press QPR they will create plenty of good goalscoring chances. Robin van Persie is going through  his worst drought of the season, as he hasn't scored in his last two games. He has eight games left to score the four goals he needs to pass the magical 30 mark in the league this season.

I think RVP will have some joy today, and Arsenal will get themselves another valuable three points. I'm predicting a 3-1 win, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Arsenal get their third clean sheet in a row either. If they get the three points it will put real pressure on Spurs ahead of their game at home to Swansea on Sunday.

Thankfully I'll be able to watch the game as it's being shown live on TV in Ireland. I'll be settling down with a couple of beers in my new Arsenal shirt to cheer on my team. Hopefully I will be cheering them all the way to three points, and a firmer grip on third place too.

That's it for today.

Here's the highlights of the "Mind The Gap" game against Spurs.

See you tomorrow.

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